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Meet the Pothole Pro: JCB's answer to our pothole problems

JCB looks to fix the UK's potholes with its innovative new machine

Potholes blight our roads, wreaking havoc on tyres, wheels and suspension systems, while road users who spot these pockmarks at the last minute and swerve around them can present significant danger to others. Those on bikes, scooters and motorbikes, meanwhile, may find themselves unseated from their rides, sometimes fatally so. 

The UK has a huge pothole problem, and it’s caused by a combination of two major factors that operate in a vicious circle. The first is that traffic volumes have risen hugely over the last three decades or so, causing increased wear and tear on our roads. Second, the UK’s weather sees our plentiful rain seep into cracks in the road, while the cold winters cause this moisture to freeze, expand, and damage already worn surfaces, which traffic pounds yet further. 

Research from the RAC shows that poor-quality roads are the number-one concern for drivers in this country, but things should be improving thanks to a £2.5billion ‘pothole fund’ that’s been set up by the Government, and the machine you see here: JCB’s PotholePro.

The PotholePro is the latest release from JCB, one of the UK’s largest private companies, and it brings several advantages over traditional pothole-repair methods. The first of these is time, with the PotholePro able to significantly cut how long it takes to repair road imperfections. It’s four times quicker than established methods, allowing potholes to be filled in as little as eight minutes. And, given that time is money, using the machine means councils can cut costs to the tune of 50 per cent. Such efficiency means more potholes can be repaired, with one machine being able to fix 700 a month, according to JCB, making far shorter work of the million or so potholes that require filling in the UK.

Indeed, the PotholePro is such a significant new member of JCB’s 300-plus arsenal of diggers, loaders, tractors and machines that its development was personally overseen by the firm’s chairman, Lord Bamford, son of JCB’s founder.

Lord Bamford is outspoken in his distaste of potholes, calling them “the scourge of our nation”, adding that just as the country is “quite rightly fixated on this dreadful problem”, so too is he “fixated on finding a solution”. 

Key to the PotholePro’s efficiency is that it combines several operations. Typically, repair crews arrive on scene in a 7.5-tonne truck complete with all manner of kit, standing on the road, often exposing themselves to danger as they cut, hammer and dig out tarmac around the offending road scar in readiness for it being filled. 

With the PotholePro, all preparation can be carried out by one machine, which can travel to its destination at up to 25mph, then scrape and cut the pothole out, all controlled from the comfort and safety of the machine’s cab. The rotating brush and bucket even clean up the surface, leaving it ready for crews to fill with fresh tar before moving on to their next job.

James Harper, a highways team manager from Stoke-On-Trent city council, says the PotholePro “has huge benefits”, not only due to the speed with which it can prepare potholes, but also because it’s safer. “Our lads can stay in the cab, and the machine will do all the work”, he says. “It’ll be working a live carriageway, so it reduces health and safety risks, and all the backbreaking stuff.”

Like most sophisticated machines, the PotholePro isn’t cheap, with an estimated price tag of £165,000. However, councils can spread that cost, with finance coming in at around £600 a month. That’s still a tidy sum, but the PotholePro cuts the cost of a repair from £60 to £30. And when you consider the millions authorities pay in compensation each year after pothole strikes, expect to see one of these machines on a road near you soon. 

Learn how you can claim against pothole damage to your car here...

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